Archives For institutionalism

Swearing in Church #@!$%*&!

Erik Cooper —  February 24, 2011 — 7 Comments

There’s an emerging curse word in church circles today (at least my circles). A four letter word that actually has seven. It’s dirty. Nasty. Brace yourselves and stick a finger in the kids’ ears.

Pr@g&#m!

(I’m expecting my FCC fine in the mail at any moment).

A pastor announcing a new pr@g&#m at his church today is like a politician bragging about increasing your taxes. You just don’t do it. Your posts will get flagged by internet filters. It could even trigger a Dateline exposé.

Pr@g&#ms are for institutions.

Pr@g&#ms are for mass, assembly line production.

Pr@g&#ms are for religious people.

Pr@g&#ms produce 2% shifts and checklist living, not long-term Kingdom transformation.

Right?

I had a fascinating conversation with one of our City Community Church overseers last week. In the midst of our passionate dialog, he mentioned the dreaded “P-word.” After chastising his potty mouth, I asked him a serious question:

When does a valid ministry endeavor become an institutionalized pr@g&#m? When does it cross that line? What is the core difference between a pr@g&#m response and an honest, effective investment in someone’s life?

I thought his answer was intriguing. Worth posting to stir some conversation:

“Pr@g&#ms create spectators and consumers. Transformation demands participation and sacrifice.”

What do you think of that definition? Is he right? Love to hear your thoughts (after I finish sucking on this bar of soap).

I’ve noticed an interesting, little phenomenon through the last year of consistent blogging:  people respond when I post my thoughts on the dysfunction, systematization, or abuses of the organized Church (and when I use words like “suck” in my blog titles).

That’s not difficult to unwind.

The Church is often deserving of criticism. And those of us longing to emerge from a predominantly cultural acceptance of Christ into a more vital, life-breathing relationship with Him, have had to take a long and honest look at what we’ve truly embraced.

We’ve had to point at it.  Name it.  Call it what it was. And often times distance ourselves from it.

It’s true.  The Church can be:

hypocritical

manipulative

money-hungry

behavior driven

backward

controlling

institutional

stale

abusive

self-serving

self-righteous

(fill in your favorite missing adjective)

And I don’t think pointing at the truth is unwarranted.

The Old Testament prophets violently confronted poor spiritual leadership.  Jesus Himself had more than passive insults to throw at the religious hierarchy of His day.

But it’s so easy to chuck stones at the institution. To critique the caricature.  To cynically slam the fundamentalist control-mongers.

(and let’s be honest, it’s a lot of fun, too)

It’s much scarier to take a hard look at ourselves.

Here’s the deal:  I am the church. And so are you if you claim to follow Jesus Christ.  So perhaps we should focus first on embracing our personal responsibility to the Kingdom rather than just gleefully pointing at the Emperor with his pants around his ankles.  Maybe we should repent of our own dysfunction, hypocrisy, and control issues. Remove the “plank” from our eye so we can see clearly to help The Church at large.

Let’s continue to wrestle. To challenge.  To embrace the tension.  To call the spades what they are.  (I plan on it).

Let’s just always be willing to start with the me before we take on the we.